Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BLOG #8 “Hurry Up and Wait”

Okay, so this is the portion of our program where we wait.   Just like in production where we hustle through rehearsal and then wait for the lighting crew to get the set pretty, or in post where we hustle through the edit to wait for the clip to render (I hate that spinning beachball soooo much)…
We have hustled to get the movie done and into the hands of some sales agents… and now we wait to hear back and see if we can marry up with the right company to sell this film. 

So what’s a filmmaker to do in these oh-so empty moments, when the film is out of your hands?   I spend time with my family and friends, I catch up on the news, I fill out my absentee voter form (VOTE! VOTE! VOTE!) and I watch movies and tv shows that I’ve neglected…  and then I come into my messy office and I look up at my white board – which is covered with a slate of projects.  If those projects are ever going to get as far as The Lake Effect has, I’ve got to get a move on.

Here’s the breakdown:

I’m excited to say that Jennifer Westin and I have had so much fun working on TLE together that we’re teaming up on a second project, (which, really, I should be writing instead of blogging about). It’s still in treatment form but it’s shaping up to be a fun and funny ensemble comedy about love and friendship.  It’s loosely based on my childhood friends, actually – a group of complete assholes, whom I love dearly.

This one’s a TV pilot that I’m penning with my very dear friend and amazing comedy writer Cindy McCreery.   Seriously, that girl funny.  Can’t tell you much about that one yet except that it’s set on the south shore of Long Island where I grew up and it’s cast of characters include some colorful Italian Americans that may be inspired by my family.   (Are we seeing a pattern here of me raping my real life for content?  Beware ye close to me, lest you get immortalized…)

Prude is actually a script of Cindy’s that she’s considering letting me direct.  It’s a very funny take on high school sexuality – sort of like a female American Pie.  Genius.

This one’s simmering on the back burners.  It’s about a documentarian documenting her dysfunctional love life.   I have toyed with the idea of doing this as a cumulative webisode series, playing the documentarian and shooting half the movie on my webcam.   Maybe the back burner is the wrong place for this one…

Ah, Tits.  This is an oldie but a goodie.  It’s a dramedy about a typical teenage girl struggling to grow up in a near-perfect suburban world when she realizes that only one of her boobs is growing.  This film has had actors and financing come and go – it only needs like a half a million dollars and a name actor to be the best thing ever.  

And last but not least… UNTITLED TV SPEC
I’m working on a Modern Family (I know, I know, “Everyone’s doing it.”)  But I straight up love that show.   I’m convinced that the creators snuck into our house and took notes on my husband while crafting the character of Phil.   Anyway, finding a home on a TV staff would be very cool.  There’s so much amazing creative work going on in TV right now, it’s a great place to work on character driven stuff, and you know that what you’re writing will actually be seen!  What more can you ask for? Plus, baby needs a new pair of shoes and I hear TV jobs come with these things called paychecks. 
So what’s the trick to maintaining sanity while waiting to hear back from that agent/ executive/ sales company…? Keep on keeping on. Attack that to do list with your whole heart. Dive into that new project head first. Also, it doesn’t hurt to listen to McHammer radio on Pandora.  Nothing inspires me to “move it move it” like early nineties hip hop.  

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

BLOG #7: Filmmaking and Sex… a metaphor.

Alright, it’s drizzling in LA.  It’s been overcast for an hour and (along with the rest of the city) my seasonal-affective-disorder is kicking in. 

In my cynical state, I thought I would share a little metaphor that I was discussing with some filmmakers at an artists’ club in SoHo in the wee hours. 

What is the value of niche/art film if no one ever sees it?  If you’re making obscure little indie films that no one ever sees but which you really enjoy, are you really just doing it for your own pleasure?  And isn’t that kind of like masturbation? Moreover, if art film is masturbation, then that would make their opposite, studio tent pole event movies… prostitution?  
Picasso's Les Mademoiselles d' Avignon
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not placing judgement on what kind of films people choose to work on.   I have friends who write tent poles and friends who make movies for an audience of one… and I’m mighty proud of all of them actually.  Hell, I’m proud of anyone who gets any sort of movie made.  Lord knows it ain’t easy.

I’m just trying to figure out what the balance is, if indeed there is a balance.  Maybe there’s a different answer for everyone.  Film is art, film is commerce.  There is a large gray area between those extremes and I think that they have a lot to learn from each other.  

The studios spend lots of time and market research developing films in the hopes of  reaching as large an audience as possible.  Films for everyone - it sounds like the perfect marriage between communism and capitalism – ideally hit all four quadrants of viewers: men and women, young and old.  I would argue that these films are less about individual expression and more about their ability to please, their broad appeal.  Unless of course they are made by Pixar.  Talk about balance.  They’ve managed to support artistic vision and reach the masses.  Bravo, Pixar.

Alright, so that’s the model of successful balance on the top tier – what about for us indie folk? How do you create film that pushes the limits and is a true creative expression of your yearning little artistic soul and ensure that lots of people are going to want to sit in the seats munching popcorn for two hours of it? We can’t hire Tom Hanks (or let’s face it, even get a read from his agent’s assistant).  As an independent filmmaker, how do you balance?

Finding the balance as an indie filmmaker -- using cinema as a tool for artistic expression while also getting people to actually SEE the films that I am pouring my heart and soul into… that’s the goal.  So, maybe there is compromise on the road to independent distribution.  What that is, I have no idea.  I get the sense that I’m opening a can of worms here… maybe I’m just trying to incite someone to comment on this blog!!!!  I guess really, I’m hoping that  somewhere in the large gray area between masturbation and prostitution is… making love.   



Tuesday, October 12, 2010

BLOG #6 RAIN(DANCE) OR SHINE - Raindance Film Fest Wrap Up!

It is an 
understatement to say that Raindance is a really cool festival.  Stridently independent, they eschew politics to program great work, whether or not it has names or glory attached.  Everything I saw was unique, entertaining, and engaging.
where the magic happens.
God, I love going to the movies.   The dark theatre, the cushy seats, the escapism found halfway through a bucket of popcorn.  I know we’re all moving toward watching cinema on our Iphones (not that I’m knocking my Iphone – I heart my Iphone) but really, an image the size of a playing card cannot compare to the Calgon-take-me-away experience of 4k projection, stadium seating and surround sound.  But I digress… what I want to say is that watching The Lake Effect projected in all it’s glory in a first class theatre… ruled.

Sandwiched between Resident Evil and
The Other Guys.  Not bad company. 
All my fears (no audience, technically difficulties, tomato throwing) were allayed.   There was indeed, a crowd. The lobby was packed when we arrived twenty minutes before our screening and the 200 seat theatre felt full enough – could’ve been the opening weekend of anything (except maybe Harry Potter… let’s be real).  Jennifer and I hid in the back row as the lights went down and the movie came up… and then (thank god) the audience laughed, they gasped, they wiped tears.  They got it.  

Jennifer said that she spent the entire movie watching the audience but I somehow managed to forget to worry about what they might be thinking and just experience the film.   It was the first time I’d seen it look and sound how it was supposed to and it was beautiful.   Not just the technical stuff but the film.  I really felt that the film itself was beautiful.  After so much work and some uncertainty about what I’ve invested two years of my life in, this night, this festival gave me a chance to fall back in love with my film.   The whole point is to reach people, right?  To affect an audience, to share human experience.  This night was just that. 
Winners of the London Mums
TLE ticket giveaway!
Okay, so here’s the thing, I’m home now – back in LA.   I’m still riding the high of that night, the excitement, the generous compliments from the crowd – the fact that several older British gentlemen were in tears… but I’m not sure what’s next.  I know a lot of people stateside are anxious to finally see what this is all about.  All four of you reading this are thinking “I want to see what made the older British gentlemen cry!”  We don’t have any festivals or screenings lined up quite yet but believe me we’re working on it.  I’m committed to carving out a real strong life for this film even if indie film is collectively on the operating table. Which is to say, if you have the inclination to see The Lake Effect, you will be able to see The Lake Effect.

At the very least, it will be Jennifer and I on the road in a beat up van, screening the film for our fans across the country.  Film tour, anyone?  

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Blog #5 Nerves and Things

Tonight's the big night!  

Tonight, we project our nicest HDCam copy of The Lake Effect to the British public… I’m suddenly struck with the few images I’ve seen of British Parliament (Verbal assaults from a flurry of white wigs, or is it whigs?) American indies have a tough time here, so I hear. 

I'm a bit... nervous.  Maybe it’s the bustling metropolis that’s right outside the theatre doors.  Or maybe it’s because the line-up at Raindance has been so impressive or because the programmers and staff are so incredibly cool...  

I shouldn’t be nervous.  We have at least a dozen friends coming to cheer us on (thank you thank you thank you), not to mention an entire fan club for our British actress Tara Summers (who does a flawless American accent as Natalie, btw).  We’re having a pre-party and an after party and it’s going to be all good.  Right?

To keep my mind off of it, let’s change the subject.  Let’s talk about…

Things you might not know about what it’s like to be a filmmaker on the indie festival circuit:
  • You get very close to your producer.  For example, Jenn and I are sharing a double bed in a flat in Pimlico. 
  • You try to stay under budget.  For breakfast this morning, Jenn and I ate oatmeal packets that I brought from the hotel we stayed at in Colorado.  No joke. 
  • You walk a lot.  Cobblestone streets plus boots with heels = sore calves.
  • You become a pack mule.  Laptop, umbrella, big posters, small posters, postcards, water, emergency granola bar (chalk that up to the mom in me). 
  • You stay up very late.  Our first day in, Jenn and I arrived at 6 AM.  20 hours later, with the Spice Girls pumping at the very divey, very awesome Phoenix Club in Soho, we called it a night.
  • You, for a short while, are reminded that you are an artist, that you have a community, and that what you are doing is totally, totally worth it. 

(An addendum:  If you haven’t seen it yet, read the “Mompreneur” article that the popular British parenting site London Mums wrote about me! http://www.londonmums.org.uk/busmums/busmums.html  A big thanks to Monica Costa!)